Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Then What?

"They have got their foot in the door for a massive permanent expansion of welfare through this stimulus measure."

Robert Rector, Heritage Foundation, quoted in: Michael A. Fletcher, "For Social Programs, Long-Awaited Boost," The Washington Post, February 16, 2009.

"It's a downpayment...But we're certainly on the right track."

Trenton Mayor Douglas H. Palmer,quoted in: Robin Shulman, "Big-City Leaders Call Stimulus a Fine Start," The Washington Post, February 17, 2009.

Is it large enough, targetted enough, stimulative enough? We'll see, but there's a deepening political divide, inside the beltway at least,that characterizes the stimulus as either expanding welfare or as simply being a downpayment on a new generation of social programs. So many voices talking with such authority.

The right should keep in mind that expanding benefits and the safety net is as likely to serve laid-off financial sector workers. The "success" of welfare reform in the 1990s combined incentives with full employment -- a remedy for lots of problems. The left should remember that we're trying to stimulate the economy, not make up for past budget cuts or taking a first step towards becoming Denmark.

The stimulus is one of several needed fixes. Unfortunately, we should begin thinking about: "Then what?"

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